OUR OPINION: Chaney’s course a prudent one

By NEMS Daily Journal

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney had an eminently sensible idea after Congress passed President Barack Obama’s health care law.
The law offered the states the option of setting up their own private health insurance exchange where people can go to find the best plan available for their needs. States that didn’t enact their own would see the federal government do it for them.
Chaney decided to establish such an exchange in Mississippi so Mississippians could decide how it would be structured. The logic was sound, and Chaney’s action put Mississippi ahead of most other states in ensuring state control of the exchange.
He didn’t like the new health care law, Chaney said, but better Mississippi take the initiative to set up its exchange than leave it to the feds. Besides, the exchange could help lower costs and provide greater choice to consumers regardless of whether the Affordable Care Act survives. Gov. Haley Barbour, who first sought the exchange five years ago, and other Republicans have in the past been staunch supporters of the concept.
But anything associated with the new health care law is a political lightning rod, and some opponents have fought any efforts to proceed with its implementation before the November elections. Chaney felt that pressure last week when Tea Party activists decried his stance, but he told them he would continue to prepare for the 2014 implementation requirement.
Then a Friday media report suggested Chaney had done an about face and halted his efforts. That brought a commendation from Gov. Phil Bryant, who is closely aligned with the Tea Party. Then Chaney emphatically disputed the report, saying his position “has not changed.”
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves had it right in a statement released by his spokesperson earlier in the week: “Prior to the November election, state government has to proceed as if Obamacare is the law, including moving ahead with an insurance exchange.”
Even a victory for Mitt Romney in November won’t guarantee the repeal of the Affordable Care Act; that would take an accompanying Republican congressional landslide as well. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling has eliminated the option for overturning it through litigation, so Congress will have to go through the battle again.
Mississippi should be in a position to get the best result possible whether the law is repealed or not. Preparing a state exchange isn’t an endorsement nor an encouragement for maintaining the law. It’s simply the prudent and responsible course, and Chaney should be commended – not castigated – for pursuing it.